HARTFORD, Connecticut – Ben James of Milford began the experience of a lifetime Monday when he and the rest of the 12-player United States team competing in the Junior Presidents Cup took off for Australia on Monday.
The event is Sunday and Monday at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Victoria, Australia, and the youngsters will have the opportunity to meet and play in front of some of the best players in the world competing on the U.S. and International teams in the Presidents Cup on Dec. 12-15.
The 16-year-old James is the youngest player on the American side and will cap what could be the best year for a junior in Connecticut golf history. A sophomore at Hamden Hall Country Day School, James won state, New England and national titles and will now play in an event that will include players from 10 states, Australia, China, Chinese Taipei, India, Korea and South Africa. Several players competed in the Boys PGA Junior Championship at Keney Park Golf Course in Hartford in July.
James tied for ninth as the best Connecticut finisher in the PGA of America national championship and is the only member of the 2022 high school graduating class on the U.S. team. He finished second by a shot in the American Junior Golf Association Wyndham Championship in Charlotte, N.C., won the AJGA Killington Junior Golf Championship in Vermont, rolled to four easy win in five matches in capturing the Connecticut State Golf Association Junior Championship, finished third and low amateur in the Connecticut Open and shot 6-under 134 for 36 holes to win his second consecutive Northern Junior Championship at New Haven Country Club by five strokes.
James then shot 7-under 203 for 54 holes to win his second consecutive title in the 50th New England Junior Championship at Mill River CC in Stratford, leading Connecticut to its second straight team title with a 15-under 1,035 total that outdistanced runner-up Massachusetts by 17 strokes for the second year in a row. James won the New England individual title by a shot over teammate Chris Fosdick of Middlefield and Massachusetts phenom James Imai, the 2017 winner whose closing 66 nearly caught the champ.
James, who plays out of Great River GC in Milford, clinched his spot on the Junior Presidents Cup team when he tied for 19th in the AJGA’s Junior Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Fla., home of The Players Championship. The Junior Players Championship was by invitation only, and Smith, who entered the season finale 11th in the points standings, was the only player from Connecticut in the 78-man field.
CSGA executive director Mike Moraghan said James deserves all the rewards he gets before he starts his college career at the University of Virginia.
“I think Ben James could be the best junior golfer in Connecticut history, and I don’t know if any junior has had a better summer than Ben did,” said Moraghan, the University of Virginia men’s golf team coach from 1989 to 2004. “It’s been fun to watch Ben grow and develop. I remember looking over at our table of boys at the New England dinner (in 2016), and Ben was half the size of some of our guys. He looked like a little kid next to boys like A.J. Ouimet and Jason Liu, but he really fit right in and had everyone’s respect.
“It was obvious even then that Ben was mature beyond his years and had all the qualities you want to see in a champion golfer. He is patient, focused, thoughtful in his decision-making and never seems to be overwhelmed by the moment. And he loves to play and compete. Combine his mental strengths with physical talent and you have a very special player.”
Special, indeed, and someone who will have the terrific experience of competing Down Under after just being old enough to drive.